Sibling Groups Stay Together and Thrive Together
David is 37 minutes older than his brother, Grant.
“But I’m taller,” Grant said. “I’m 6-4, and David is 6-3.”
As twins, Grant and David are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves from each other. Both seniors wear Boys Ranch letterman jackets with their names on the back. David’s jacket has block letters on it, and Grant’s has script letters.
“Being a twin is unique, because you pretty much are the same person, but different,” Grant said.
Since they arrived at Boys Ranch in December 2016, David and Grant have shared many experiences together, and they have enjoyed many experiences individually. That’s part of being in a sibling group at Boys Ranch.
Boys Ranch is currently home to 22 siblings with an emphasis on raising individuals and strengthening their family bonds, said Michelle Maikoetter, chief program officer.
Homes for Siblings
“When there are difficulties in families, one of the first things that happens is the siblings are often separated and sent to different places,” Maikoetter said. “It’s hard to find places to take more than one child at a time. Kids who come to us and stay together get to celebrate their birthdays together, holidays together and just experience the community together.”
Siblings might not be in the same classrooms or even the same homes, but they enjoy all the other parts of being a family, Maikoetter said.
“They have the same chaplain and the same teachers and the same coaches and get to share that, growing up together, like they would in a typical household,” Maikoetter said.
When Grant and David arrived at Boys Ranch, they were both in the same home. As they grew older, they went into different homes. Placement decisions are made based on the best interests of each individual child in the sibling group, Maikoetter said. Those placement decisions might change as the children become older.
“It really depends on the dynamics that are already there for some kids,” Maikoetter said. “Maybe they want to be with their sibling and that’s helpful to them. It’s always based on what’s best for the kid, and every kid is different.”
Sibling Time Together
Siblings are separated by gender – brothers and sisters are in different homes.
“Many times, houseparents will invite sisters or brothers to dinner so they can spend time together,” Maikoetter said. “We also have sibling group activities where we might take all sibling groups to the Dippel Activity Center, and they’ll do an activity together. They also see each other in the dining hall and at school.”
At Christmas, siblings watch each other open presents and spend time together.
“We’re making our bond stronger right now because we know that this is our last year together,” Grant said. “We’ve been together everywhere. Before Boys Ranch, we lived together in the same room and now we’re still on the same campus. We see each other every day pretty much all day. We have a lot of the same classes together.”
David and Grant are also sharing a room during their last year at Boys Ranch.
Having siblings together is important, Maikoetter said, because they have pre-existing relationships and have shared lives.
“Having a shared experience helps children figure out things in life, to reflect back on them and to help make sense of things,” Maikoetter said. “Family members are the ones who stick with us no matter what, when friends may come and go.”
In a new environment like Boys Ranch, it’s comforting to have a supportive person nearby who’s not an adult, David said.
“In our first home, it was nice because I had my brother,” David said. “We made friends with everyone there, but even if I didn’t make friends, I always had my brother around. It’s almost like a support system that came with you from your old life into this new one.”
Grant, who also always had his brother around, said many children on campus have had similar challenging life experiences.
“But my brother sees it from the exact same perspective,” Grant said. “We both came from the same place, the same exact story.”
A family rift led to these tall, well-spoken, accomplished teens being placed at Boys Ranch. After their mother died, their father remarried, and their new stepmother had difficulties with appropriate childcare. So they came to Boys Ranch.
“It was really hard at first,” Grant said. “I didn’t want to be at the ranch or leave my family. It was a big change.”
Easier Transitions and Developing Separate Interests
Having a sibling at Boys Ranch helped that transition.
“Children can develop some really significant relationships out here with us, the sense of family and the sense of permanency. That long-term sense of connection is really important,” said John Hazle, vice president of youth services. “Our sibling groups can do better in placement because they have that sense of connection with their family, and they don’t feel abandoned.”
The two teens will graduate in May 2023. Since arriving as sixth-graders, they have played sports, excelled in the classroom and challenged themselves with such adventures as hiking in Palo Duro Canyon and to Wheeler Peak.
David has been active in the STEAM lab, imagining 3D creations then taking them from idea to completion. He built a chuck box that placed first in woodworking competition at the Tri-State Fair. David is part of the chess club and plays tennis. He has participated in One Act Play. The aspiring engineer completed a NASA program for high school students and hopes to become an aerospace engineer.
Grant developed a skill in woodworking, crafting handrubbed cherry tables and other beautiful objects. In spring 2022, he was named to the 3-AA All-District Academic team for basketball and was co-Newcomer of the Year. Grant says he would love to play basketball at the college level. He has wrestled and played football, too.
Preparing for the Wider World
Grant and David are mathletes, representing Boys Ranch High School in University Interscholastic League competitions. David competes in computer science.
“I have learned so many things over the years at Boys Ranch, like empathy,” Grant said. “I realize everybody has a struggle that they’re fighting, and all you can do is support them in the process. I would like to grow up to share the Bible with everybody I can, become a better basketball player and have a job in woodworking. In all these things I want to give God all the glory and just spread His love all over the world.”
Being at Boys Ranch, they both say, has shaped them.
They have volunteered at Camp Alphie for cancer patients. They have assisted in building a Habitat for Humanity home.
Changed Outlooks on Life
“Boys Ranch has affected my outlook,” David said. “Coming here forced me to think broader, about how I could do better. No one in my family has gone to college. They’ve all got pretty good jobs, but I’ll be the first one to go to college and graduate.”
The brothers were baptized the same day and have shared their testimony at churches in the Amarillo area.
“For me, I always believed in God, but when I came to Boys Ranch, my relationship with Him increased exponentially,” David said. “The people that run this place are really disciples of God. It’s not always big things, just sometimes, you’ll be hanging out with some friends, and you can see the light of God through them. This place really is special.”
The brothers have been able to pursue their own interests and develop relationships with other teens on campus who share those interests.
“Without donors, none of this would be possible,” David said. “So yes, thank you for your money. But at the same time, the fact that donors care enough to give money and to want to be involved with what happens out here, like how to make our lives better – it’s really nice. We’re grateful for that.”
Thanks to donors, Grant and David have been able to remain family, as have the other sibling sets on campus. What does the word “brother” mean?
“Companion for life,” David said.
“He’s family,” Grant said.